Geo Week News

November 2, 2009

Bring On the Innovation!

In recent weeks, some exciting announcements have come over the wire that point to the adoption of point cloud technology going mainstream. Bentley’s partnership with Pointools is already getting great buzz, and this week, Autodesk customers continue the trend through arrangements with Ambercore and Quantapoint. No one in the scanning industry is resting during this economic slowdown–they’re working night and day with such great determination to produce solutions that will reinvent existing work processes and force new thinking. This is just the beginning–keep your eyes and ears open for more news in the short-term. Read on for last week’s software and hardware announcements.

AutoCAD Users Gain Point Cloud Functionality in New Releases

The wait is over for Autodesk AEC customers wanting to process large scan data sets inside AutoCAD. Last week, Ambercore announced that its point cloud technology has been incorporated into the releases of AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010 and AutoCAD Map 3D 2010, part of Autodesk’s Subscription Advantage Packs. These releases are the first integrated Autodesk-Ambercore products brought to market; a license deal between the two companies was made in September 2008.

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010 and AutoCAD Map 3D 2010 users will now be able to read, store, index and quickly retrieve extremely large point cloud data sets of millions of points in order to create DEMs and contour data, digitize as-built features for design projects, visualize power lines and surrounding vegetation for right-of-way management, develop an understanding of the site context in site surveys, and more. The resulting visualization and analysis capabilities give users the tools to build high-precision 3D models enabling them to better plan, design and manage AEC projects.

Since software compression, transfer and processing has been a longstanding problem for CAD users, this news is expected to be well received. We look forward to hearing the impact of this new capability by millions of Autodesk users.

Quantapoint Integrates 3D Laser Scan Data in Autodesk Revit

Quantapoint also unveiled an integration arrangement with Autodesk last week. Using QuantaCAD, 3D laser scan data may be accessed directly (without subsampling or converting to polygon meshes) within Autodesk Revit as Quantapoint-trademarked photorealistic Laser Images and high-definition Laser Models of integrated laser data. The models allow for direct design analysis and remodeling, the creation of new designs, design reviews and real-time validation.

The solution corrects one of the challenges of Building Information Modeling (BIM), says Quantapoint Founder Eric Hoffman: that being the creation of models that accurately represent existing buildings. Additionally, he says, new 3D BIM designs can be viewed and clashed with the laser data to ensure that they will fit into the existing facility, thus eliminating rework.

Adding to its high-profile project roster that includes NYC’s Guggenheim, Wrigley Field, the Art Institute of Chicago and the St. Louis Public Library, Quantapoint was highlighted October 23 on WICS-TV NewsChannel 20 in Illinois for its work on the state’s capital in Springfield. Accurate drawings of the building’s existing conditions don’t exist, and manually measuring the structure that would require great amounts of labor to trace piping and verify the construction of walls was not an appealing solution to capturing true, usable measurements of the building. From Quantapoint’s resulting scans, a 3D replica model of the capital can now be made–accurate to an eighth of an inch–and used as a reference point for renovation or add-on projects. View the WICS broadcast here.

Trimble Develops CX Scanner for Industrial Plant Apps

Last week, Trimble introduced the Trimble CX 3D laser scanner for plant applications. The unit includes Trimble’s proprietary WAVEPULSE technology, which combines the high short-range accuracy of phase-shift technology with the low-noise sensitivity and high-distance characteristics of time-of-flight technology. The result is high-precision measurements over the full operating range, which allows for fewer setups and faster processing time in a plant environment, thereby contributing to improved worker safety.

Trimble CX published specs include a plant data capture rate of 50,000 points per second at an 80-meter range with a 360- x 300-degree field of view; a rugged design; an IP54 rating and protective housing for the rotating laser; and an integrated camera that collects additional image information. It is supported by Trimble Access software for Spatial Imaging, which runs on the Trimble Tablet rugged PC built for industrial conditions and has a large daylight-readable display, IP67 environmental rating and long battery life. Trimble CX data can be transferred through Trimble Access to Trimble RealWorks and Trimble LASERGen software. The Trimble CX solution also includes 3D Extractor software specifically developed to reduce the time to calibrate storage tanks by determining filling tables and sump volumes, as well as provide rich data sets to be used for monitoring tank deformations. The Trimble CX is expected to be available in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Leica Announces Software Additions

At its user conference last week, Leica Geosystems announced three new laser scanning software products for scan data import, forensic scene mapping and modeling complex 3D surfaces. A new standalone Cyclone IMPORTER module enables the direct use by Cyclone of scan data. Direct import of native data formats from third-party scanners avoids conversion steps to neutral formats that can be time consuming and that are generally not as efficient for downstream data processing. ForensicMap Pro, developed by MicroSurvey, is available exclusively from Leica Geosystems. This addition allows forensic professionals to utilize rich, complete scan data for forensic investigations. 3DReshaper software, a standalone software for working efficiently with large, complex meshes and comparing them against design models, has been added to the Leica Geosystems suite of point cloud processing software. Developed by Technodigit SARL, 3DReshaper enables users of laser scan data to create smooth surface models of very complex 3D geometry surfaces. This capability is especially useful for laser scanning applications involving heritage, archaeology, architecture, ship hulls and terrain mapping, among others.

Also announced, Leica CloudWorx 3.3 for AutoCAD incorporates features specifically for plant designers, including a clash detection manager, a new flange point selection tool and an enhanced point cloud density display control. The point cloud clash management functionality, which is said to have the look and feel of familiar plant CAD model clashing features, allows plant designers to readily find clashes between existing “as-built” conditions and the new piping, equipment and structural designs inside their Plant CAD application. A new flange point selection tool enables the precise definition of critical “tie-in” points. A new enhanced point density display control capability speeds office productivity, particularly when working with large and dense point cloud data sets often associated with plant as-builts. A similar version is planned to support Bentley MicroStation applications and users. Leica CloudWorx 3.3 for AutoCAD is available with new licensing options that enable organizations to more easily deploy laser scanning across their enterprise.

Z+F UK Releases LFM Modeller 3.92

New features of Z+F UK‘s LFM Modeller 3.92, downloadable at, include:
BubbleView Modelling. Users can quickly produce 3D CAD models directly from laser scan data. A pipe-elbow-pipe branch can be modelled in just four simple mouse clicks. Modelling of complete pipe branches becomes a simple matter of ‘sketching’ a line along the length of the pipe and clicking on the start and end of elbows. During the sketching phase, a roll of the mouse lets the system know what the underlying piping element is. Once complete, the fitting process and branch creation is then fully automatic. LFM Modeller also incorporates tools to allow fitting in the more traditional 3D view.

Connectivity. As each pipe is modelled, a “snap-on” connector is automatically placed on the ends of the pipe enabling standard library components, such as flanges, tees, elbows and reducers, to be rapidly instanced and connected onto the end of other objects. Each connection is ‘keyed’ so that it can only connect to objects of the correct type. Where a flange has been placed onto a pipe, only other flanged objects, such as a valve, will then be presented to the user for downstream connection. In addition, a logical layer provides intelligent component instantiation from the library. Connectors also allow valves, tees and elbows to be rapidly slid along piping or rotated to any orientation. They also provide logical linking of individual components into long flows. This means that entire branches can be quickly modelled, adjusted or moved around within the modelling session.

Structure. Users can fit beams, columns, channels, angles and box sections from a large range of stock standards included in the standard library with a two-click process. During the creation of the structural components, the user can opt to create the structural elements into an aligned NSEW frame. This feature facilitates the smooth transition into target CAD systems which can only accept structure in an orthogonal NSEW frame.

Extensive Library. A new library of piping components has been created that includes elbows, tees, reducers, flanges, valves and actuators. A custom toolkit is available for clients who require additional library components.

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